After a lackluster campaign for the Seton Hall women’s soccer program, changes were finally made.
Head coach Rick Stainton parted ways with the Pirates without registering a winning season in his five years of strolling the sidelines in South Orange. The Pirates ended the 2018 season at 2-12-4, including 0-9-0 in conference play, and their goal differential of -24 is a large reason why. Both the offense and the defense struggled heavily to get going during the year.
Another reason could have been inexperience, as 19 of the 31 players on the roster were underclassmen. Of the 16 players who recorded more than 500 minutes on the season, half of them were underclassmen, and the three players who missed that cut by less than 30 minutes were as well.
Yet, what was a potential downfall for last season is a wealth of optimism for the upcoming one.
“I know the cohesiveness is there, and a lot of the girls are young, as we have a really young team and a lot of them are so willing to work hard, put in that extra work,” captain Taylor Cutcliff said. “I have to say, the talent when I was a freshman to now, they just blow us out of the water. I know they are going to be very successful in years to come.”
As a senior, Cutcliff was a key cog in the development of the underclassmen, having to demonstrate what it takes to be a soccer player at the collegiate level. On the field, Cutcliff led by example, starting in every game she appeared in and obtaining the second most minutes out of all field players.
Even more critical, Cutcliff, along with the rest of her class, played the essential role of being a locker room motivator for the younger players and helping create a lasting legacy for the program.
“I think this [senior] class has set such a precedence for how classes should intermingle and treat each other,” sophomore forward Atley Fortney said. “We were generally friends, classes did not matter, age did not matter with everybody and that set that precedence that we can carry throughout the years.”
Fortney recognizes how the seniors stepped up and created a chemistry and team dynamic that made the team inseparable from one another, even saying the program gave her “the best relationships I have had with teammates yet.”
Cutcliff also recognizes that she and the other seniors have helped structure a healthy environment within the group of girls that will carry on for many years to come.
“As a senior I’m really sad to go, but honestly I could have not asked for a better season,” Cutcliff said. “I know the results didn’t fall in our favor most of the time, but since my freshman year to now, the culture of the team, the work ethic, being close to the girls in general, I feel confident leaving this program knowing that we left a really solid foundation for us to improve upon next year.”
After Stainton left, the character of the program was put to the test. Instead of a few players trying to rally the team after a monumental shift at the helm took place, the team rallied around itself, leaning on each other for support. Fortney says that after the change was made, it was the effort of the “collective whole” to keep on track moving forward.
Moments such as this show the bond of the group and it becomes clear as to why Cutcliff will depart the program with a positive outlook for its future.
“I am going to leave knowing that all we can do is go up from here and I left with 30 new sisters,” Cutcliff said. “I wouldn’t trade that in for the world.”
Robert Fallo can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @robert_fallo.